The Free Press, Mankato, MN


November 27, 2013

Legislators need to listen on transportation

Why it matters Progress on transportation funding in Minnesota has fallen behind and is costing taxpayers

When you listen to transportation experts appointed by governors from both parties, you get the same story.

Minnesota’s transportation system is grossly underfunded. Roads are deteriorating at a rate beyond our own standards set and ostensibly approved by august bodies of both parties of both houses —for too long.

Yet, it is a story some legislators appear unwilling to listen to, much less do anything about.

Transportation Commissioner Charles Zelle, former CEO of Jefferson Lines and current chairman of the board, is the latest in a line of transportation commissioners to point out Minnesota’s current stream of transportation funding doesn’t meet even the most basic needs of preserving our road pavements, much less being available for expansions that are no-brainer economic development engines.

So we seem to muddle along. It used to be Democrats and Republicans would easily pass transportation funding. Then it got a little harder for both parties to join together under the administration of former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who was overridden in his veto of a gas tax increase by Democrats and a half dozen Republicans.

Last year, Gov. Dayton’s bipartisan Transportation Finance Advisory Commission recommended increasing the gas tax to fund basic transportation needs. Democrats who chair both House and Senate transportation committees proposed increasing the gas tax. Dayton balked for one reason or another. It seemed political at the time. He said the public didn’t support it. He wasn’t going to be on record for raising the gas tax and he wanted MnDOT and the committee to come up with a more visionary and strategic plan.

Fair enough. Commissioner Zelle and MnDOT have done that. Now, it’s time for Democrats and Republicans to examine the plan, modify if they will, but make sure transportation needs get funded, one way or another. Maybe it’s a little more borrowing. Maybe we change the criteria for pavements a bit to reduce the need, and maybe we find more innovative ways to fund transportation, like a sales tax imposed at the wholesale level or indexing the current gas tax.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • Spear column: Hoffner case tested first and right rules The biggest news stories carry the biggest risk

    April 20, 2014

  • SCC leads the way on work ed The importance of higher education has never been more pronounced than with the changes occurring in our economy, especially in manufacturing. Bloomberg News noted that manufacturing accounts for 80 percent of our exports and for every one high-tech

    April 20, 2014

  • Our View: Y helps kids with skatepark Thumbs up to the YMCA and supporters working quickly to open an interim roller sport park. When fire destroyed Chesley Roller Sports Park in February, the Y made the commitment to rebuild it this summer and fall. But the Y also moved to give skateboa

    April 19, 2014

  • Our View: Make course evaluations public There's been a considerable and legitimate debate over the years about whether students at a public university should have access to teacher and course evaluations. Whenever there is a legitimate debate, it's hard to be in favor of less information a

    April 18, 2014

  • Our View: Drawing the line after Ukraine Why it matters: Tensions are ramping up once more as Russia tries to dictate to Ukraine.

    April 17, 2014

  • Our View: Costs key in health care access While more uninsured got coverage, costs must be controlled to sustain programs

    April 16, 2014

  • Our View: Saving lives trumps booking drug users Changes to the drug laws would save lives of those who overdose

    April 15, 2014

  • Pay attention! Distraction a problem A few years ago safety experts focused heavily on the dangers of people talking on cellphones while driving. Some states passed laws prohibiting the use of hand-held phones in cars as a result. Today much attention is on motorists typing on tiny hand

    April 14, 2014

  • DEBATE MEDICAL MARIJUANA When Minnesota lawmakers return from their spring break, one of the issues they may face is medical marijuana. This has been kicked around too many times. We feel it deserves to be pushed from committee and debated on the floor. The issue has been tr

    April 13, 2014

  • Our View: Cities saved on garbage collection Mankato and North Mankato saved their taxpayers money by bidding on garbage service

    April 12, 2014